Innovation Grand Prix at Cannes Goes to Google’s Attempt to Teach a Computer Intuition

The potential of AlphaGo's learnings is 'incredible'

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CANNES, France—Google's latest step toward developing artificial intelligence, the computer program AlphaGo, picked up the Innovation Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions festival here tonight, eclipsing eight other contenders that were pretty remarkable in their own right.

Developed by Google DeepMind in London, AlphaGo is a program that was taught to play the board game Go. Go is an exceedingly complex game with trillions of possible board positions that make it all but impossible, at least at the present time, for a computer to master it by logic alone. So, Google programmers taught it to play the game more like a human—but having it focus on parts of the board, and try to recognize different patterns—in a process that Google says is akin to intuition.

See more in the case study here:

At a press conference Wednesday, Innovation Lions jury president Emad Tahtouh, director of applied technology at Finch Australia, admitted it was a challenge to even evaluate AlphaGo's level of innovation, given how advanced it is. But its potential to be world changing is clear.

"AlphaGo, by any measure—whether you're looking at complexity or simplicity or innovation or its potential use, its current use, its success—is incredible," Tahtouh said. "It encapsulates everything we're looking for in innovation. Its potential throughout the world and in so many other avenues is incredible. I'm sure we'll be seeing more and more machine-working projects over the next few years, and I think awarding this a Grand Prix is a great message that this is the future." 

—Other Innovation Lion winners:

Out of 39 total submissions, eight other campaigns received Innovation Lions (there are no gold, silver and bronze designations in this category. The category is divided into Innovative Technology and Creative Innovation. AlphaGo was grouped with Innovative Technology. The U.S. won two Lions in Creative Innovation.

Innovative Technology winners:

Jukedeck London for the Jukedeck artificially-intelligent music composer

Circ Medtech in Hod Hasharon, Israel for the Prepex non-surgical male circumcision device for HIV prevention

The Mill London for The Mill 'Blackbird'

Serviceplan Munich for Dot Incorporation's Dot, the Braille smartwatch

Creative Innovation winners:

J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam for ING's "The Next Rembrandt"

Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney for Toyota's "Landcruiser Emergency Network"

We Believers New York for Saltwater Brewery's "Edible Six Pack Rings"

McCann New York for Lockheed Martin's "The Field Trip To Mars"

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.